If you have a question about the volunteer experience, donating to OSSO, or anything else OSSO-related, check out our list of frequently asked questions below. Scroll on down, click the question that applies to you, and read the answer that appears.
Still got questions? Call us Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. MST, and we'll be happy to answer: 208-359-1767.
+ How do I apply? What is the application process?
Simply fill out the application that applies to you. Once you’ve submitted your application and paid your application fee, we will run a background check and contact all of your references. We will then let you know if you have been accepted and inform you on what to do next.
+ What does it cost? Can I fundraise my fees?
How long you stay is how much you pay, so it varies from each volunteer to the next. Check out our breakdown of fees here.
+ What immunizations do I need before traveling?
We ask that you are up to date with your immunizations and the CDC regulations. We also suggest getting hepatitis A and B, typhoid fever, and flu shots.
+ What is the volunteer work like?
OSSO volunteer work consists of loving and helping children of all ages. The goal behind OSSO's orphanage work is to help orphans reach their potential. You’re there to give a helping hand to the orphanage workers and to plan daily activities for the children.
The work can be demanding but also very rewarding, so come prepared to serve. Learn more here.
+ How can I donate?
Simply click donate at the top of our website and then click the donate button on the next page.
If you would like to become a sponsor for OSSO and make monthly reoccurring donations, simply fill out our sponsor application.
+ What donations do the orphanages need?
The types of donations needed fluctuate often with the needs of the orphanage changing as kids grow or get adopted. The best way to know what is needed is to contact our office by phone (208-359-1767) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
+ Who can volunteer?
Anyone! We welcome individuals, families, couples, and organized groups to volunteer with us.
Our volunteers vary in experience and professions. While experience in childcare, international travel, or other related fields is helpful, no specific experience is required. As long as you come prepared to serve and have a clean background check, you can volunteer.
No matter what stage of life you are in, you can volunteer with OSSO.
+ What should I pack?
+ What activities should I prepare to do with the children?
Be prepared to do many activities with children of all ages. We suggest that you plan and come prepared to do at least three different activities: a toddler activity, an activity you can do with about fifty 8-18-year-old girls, and an activity for children with special needs and wheelchairs. Discover activity ideas on our Pinterest.
+ Do I need a visa?
This depends on the length of time you are staying, and which country you're going to as well.
In Ecuador you only need a visa if you are going to stay over 90 days.
In Thailand you need a visa if you are staying over 30 days.
*This is subject to change, as countries rules change. Please look up the country you are going to and check their recent rules and regulations on visas.
+ What do the program fees include?
- Food, housing, wifi, and utilities inside the volunteer house
- Transportation to and from airport
- Work assignments and activities at orphanages
- Excursions and activities as outlined in "What can I do in my free time?"
- Scheduled work shifts of direct interaction with the children (35-45+ hrs. weekly)
- In-country assistance (Volunteer Directors living on-site with volunteers to aid in training, translations, medical needs, and living accommodations)
- $500 donation to be used directly for the children
+ What do the program fees NOT include?
- International Airfare
- Application Fee (this is a separate nonrefundable fee of $190, which covers our office work to process your application, call references, and perform a background check)
- Passport & Visa Fees
- Independent Touring (see "What can I do in my free time" for more information)
- Medical Expenses and Medications (We recommend that each volunteer check with their health insurance provider to make sure international travel insurance is provided)
- Taxis for shopping or sightseeing during free time
+ What if I cancel? Does the program offer refunds?
- The application fee is completely nonrefundable. If we complete a background check, process your application, and choose not to accept you, your application fee is not refunded. If you decide to cancel your application, your application fee is not refunded.
- You may choose to defer your volunteer time up until the time of departure, and all payments will be held for your new departure date.
- If a volunteer is sent home for breaking Code of Conduct, volunteers will be responsible for all fees associated with ticket changes and travel fees to leave early.
- OSSO cannot and does not offer any refunds for money spent on international airfare.
- No program fee refunds will be given to volunteers who choose to sign out of the program, changing the time they have previously committed.
+ Can I attend church services while volunteering with OSSO?
Yes! OSSO is not officially affiliated with any religion; however, we do our best to support volunteers in attending worship services of their choice. While OSSO volunteers are required to work in the orphanages on Sundays, it is possible to also attend church services.
If you desire to attend a church of any religious denomination, we will do our best to find a local congregation in the city where you are volunteering. Please don't hesitate to ask!
Many of OSSO volunteers are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Because of this, we have become familiar with the meeting times and locations for LDS church services and activities. In Ecuador, LDS meetings such as sacrament and institute are held weekly in English. The English sacrament meeting is held during volunteers' lunch break so volunteers' may attend weekly. If volunteers wish to attend an LDS ward in Spanish, they can occasionally request their free time on Sunday mornings. However because of work commitments in the orphanages, it is not possible to request free time every Sunday morning.
In Thailand, volunteers can attend English LDS sacrament services weekly.
+ Is Spanish or Thai required?
Nope! Although knowing the language is very helpful, it is not required for our volunteers. There is a discount for long-term Ecuador volunteers who speak Spanish. See the Costs tab.
The majority of our volunteers do not speak Spanish or Thai. There are directors and coordinators in both cities who speak English. See our helpful Spanish Study Guide, tailored to vocabulary with children and orphanage workers. For those wanting to practice their Spanish, we recommend the free online language program Duolingo.
Thai volunteers will be taught vocabulary once in country to communicate with the children. Language guides are also helpful.
+ Is there running water and electricity available?
Yes, and (where needed) purified water is provided.
+ Is there internet service where I'll be staying?
Yes, but it is not the same speed or quality of internet as in the United States. Expect slow speeds and for it to quit working often.
+ How do I contact a volunteer while she/he is serving?
Email is the best form of communication with your volunteer!
The volunteer house in Ecuador has an internet phone line. Volunteers can use the phone, and family & friends can call them. Your volunteer can share this information with you from their travel instructions packet. The phone is connected to the internet; expect slow internet speed, and it occasionally stops working.
In Thailand, your volunteer will be given the team leader's cell number for emergencies.
+ Can I visit my child while she/he is volunteering?
Yes! We love having parents come to visit volunteers who are serving with OSSO. You will need to fill out an individual application so OSSO can approve you to be on orphanage grounds.
If you plan to stay at OSSO's volunteer house, you will need to pay the program fees associated with your stay. If you plan to stay offsite of OSSO's grounds, you won't need to pay the associated fees, but you still need to fill out an application because anyone who wants to enter the orphanage must be approved by OSSO first.
+ Can I get college credit for volunteering?
Yes, you may earn college credit for your OSSO experience. OSSO welcomes interns! Students from a variety of majors have completed internship and course hours during their service with OSSO. Please complete our internship application.
You can earn 2 to 6 credits of upper-division practicum credit in Child and Family Studies through Weber State University (these credits may transfer to other universities). If you are not currently enrolled in Weber State, you will need to contact your university to determine if the credits will transfer. Contact Dr. Schvaneveldt at Weber State for more information at email@example.com.
+ What currency do they use in Ecuador and Thailand? How do you recommend I get money while I am there?
Ecuador uses the American Dollar. In Thailand, the Thai Baht is used.
We recommend you take at least $30 cash with you while traveling. DO NOT bring large amount of cash with you, as this is risky and creates a safety issue.
Once you arrive in country, there are safe and reliable ATMs to withdraw money from. Be sure to contact your bank to let them know you will be traveling or they will block your account and not allow you to withdraw money. Depending on the bank, each time you withdraw money, they usually charge a few dollars.
We strongly recommend bringing small bills as it is difficult to get change in the markets.
+ What is the food like in Ecuador/Thailand?
Ecuador: Monday through Saturday, a cook prepares lunch for all volunteers. Almost every Ecuadorian meal includes rice. Volunteers are responsible to prepare their own breakfast, dinner, and snacks. There is a large variety of fruits and vegetables to choose from when shopping, but there are not a lot of "instant" or "freezer meals" available. Once a week, the directors or volunteers go grocery shopping and keep the house stocked with baking and cooking supplies, fresh fruits and vegetables, bread, tortillas, eggs, milk, yogurt, rice, pasta, flour, oatmeal, sugar, etc. For volunteers who are interested in trying traditional food, there will be plenty of opportunities!
Thailand: Volunteers will eat out at safe restaurants within Chiang Mai. Thai food consists of a lot of stir-fried vegetables and meats. Fresh fruits and vegetables are also in abundance.
Follow us on Pinterest to see some typical foods from Ecuador & Thailand.
+ Is travel insurance required to participate with OSSO?
OSSO does NOT require participants to show proof of travel insurance in order to volunteer. However, we recommend you consult with your private insurance provider to consider additional coverage for your trip. A Google search of "travel insurance" will also help you find many options. Below are links to a few suggestions:
+ What can I do in my free time?
There will be down time, time to spend in the city, and time for adventures. Explore your future adventures here.